Iceland's Prime Minister Working On Law Protecting Whistleblowers - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland’s Prime Minister Working On Law Protecting Whistleblowers

Published October 15, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Years in the making, the draft of a new bill from Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir would, if passed, finally provide the protections for whistleblowers that orgs such as Reporters Without Borders have urged Iceland adopt, and which began with the adoption of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative in 2010.

According to the language of the bill, a whistleblower would be defined as “those who in good faith convey information or documentation regarding illegal or unethical practices of their employers, whether public or private.” Those who fit this definition would be legally protected from criminal prosecution or civil damages.

The Directorate of Labour has already signed off on the draft, but the need for these protections are actually a long time coming, with a report from over a year ago recommending these protections be enacted.

As reported, Reporters Without Borders lowered Iceland’s press freedom ranking last year. The major reason for this was that “relations between politicians and media have soured”, the most recent example being the injunction that was placed on media outlets Stundin and Reykjavík Media in October 2017. Their reporting was based on information provided by a whistleblower, which local authorities interpreted as a violation of bank privacy laws.

While the injunction was eventually overturned, the chilling effect is undeniable.

The drive to protect whistleblowers in Iceland goes back further than this. The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, a parliamentary proposal adopted in 2010, set amongst its goals to make Iceland an “information safe haven”, which included protections for whistleblowers. However, parliamentary proposals are just that: proposals, i.e., stated aims and goals, and not concrete legislation.

When this new bill will be submitted to Parliament is still undetermined, the Prime Minister hopes to complete the draft and introduce it to Parliament during the current parliamentary session.

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